The principal act at last night’s Board of Selectmen’s meeting was the acceptance by the two Democratic Selectmen of the Republican Town Committee’s recommendation for the third slot on the Board, Michael Freda.
But more important was the undermining of the power of the party town committees with respect to the other board and commission appointments.
First Selectman Janet McCarty asked North Haveners of all parties, as well as those unaffiliated, to let her know if they wanted to be on a board or commission. The result was amany new board members, and more unaffiliated members, as well. And they weren’t hand-picked by the party town committees.
The great majority of towns our size around the United States have nonpartisan governments. Not bipartisan, but nonpartisan. You don’t run as a party member, you’re not appointed as a party member.
After all, what do parties really stand for, locally? Both parties are in favor of the best services and schools possible with the taxes people are willing to pay. Sometimes there are party differences with respect to development, but otherwise it’s mostly about power.
The deal the two party town committees made to divvy up board and commission appointments meant the exclusion from government of the largest group of citizens, those who are unaffiliated. And if you include party members who want to be able to vote in state and national primaries, but are uninvolved in local party affairs, that means a large majority of the people in town were excluded from participating in government.
Now, some of this independent majority will be participating in government. And hopefully more and more.
Why does this matter? Because they’re not interested in power. They’re interested in being involved with their community. Their loyalty is not to a party, but to the town. They will be more likely to ask questions, and less willing to go along with the crowd.
It felt good to hear Michael Pomichter, Parks & Recreation Commission chair for 17 years, complain about the failure to reappoint him. Seventeen years is a long time to run a commission. Was his commission asking the right questions, protecting the best interests of North Haven? It seems time for someone else to run the commission.
Last night, North Haven took another step into the future, away from a closed town run by two bickering parties, toward an open town run by its citizens.
Some people will complain that this puts too much power in the hands of the First Selectman. But the Republicans never complained about this when they controlled the seat. Not a single one would publicly mention possible alternatives to so much power in one person’s hands. Not a single one would publicly talk about making changes to the Charter, after 27 years, even though it was clearly the responsible thing to do.
In a comment in this blog, our new Republican Selectman, Michael Freda, said he favors charter revision, but his suggested changes are minor and very limited. And he waited until the Republicans were out of power.
My feeling is that as long as it’s about power, it isn’t good for North Haven. Last night’s board and commission appointments seemed more about spreading participation than about power.